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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Medicine                                193
cerned with gynaecological cases. All these are clearly extracts
from one and the same book and their form and arrangement is
far in advance of those of the greater part of the medical papyri,
which consist merely of prescriptions. The surgical texts are
drawn up with certain definite formulae in a fivefold form:
(i) title, (ii) examination (symptoms), (iii) diagnosis, (iv) opinion
(i.e. whether curable or not), and (v) treatment. In many cases
glosses are added which help us to understand the meanings of
the terms and idioms of the text. From the rational and almost
methodical way in which these texts are drawn up, the late
Professor Breasted claimed that the former belief in the magical
origin of medicine was no longer tenable, and that there is now
evidence that anatomy was studied for its own sake, and that
the Edwin Smith Papyrus is in the true sense a scientific book.
He failed to recognize, however, that the Edwin Smith Papyrus
is only a part of a larger body of texts into which magic enters
to no small extent, as it does, indeed, into that very papyrus
itself. It does not in the least detract from the importance and
interest of this text to prefer the opinion that whilst it un-
doubtedly affords evidence that an attempt was being made to
understand the elements of anatomy and physiology, yet it must
be clearly borne in mind that it deals only with wounds and
fractures—injuries of palpable and intelligible origin—and not
with diseases, the cause of which was to the ancients invisible,
impalpable, and unknown. A wound or injury caused by a fall
or other accident, or by a weapon or tool, was well understood
and generally treated by rational means: but the causes of
headache and fever, of skin eruptions or swellings, and of
countless other maladies, were wholly mysterious and attributed
to supernatural agencies. Two brothers might on the same day
come before a doctor at Memphis or Thebes, the one for treat-
ment of a dagger-wound in his breast, the other for an irritating
rash affecting the same region of the body. The cause of the
one was self-evident; the cause of the other was a mystery, and
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